TEHRAN- In a rare news conference, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said in Tehran on Sunday that members of his elite special operations unit, the Quds Force, are present in Syria and Lebanon.
Members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are in Syria providing non-military assistance and Iran may get involved militarily if Syria comes under attack, its commander said Sunday.
“A number of members of the Quds Force are present in Syria but this does not constitute a military presence,” commander-in-chief of the IRGC Mohammad Ali Jafari said at a news conference in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian news agency ISNA reported.
Jafari did not indicate how many members were in Syria but said they were providing “intellectual and advisory help”.
“The IRGC is giving intellectual help and even financial assistance but there is no military presence,” he said.
He also said that Iran would change its policy and offer military backing to President al-Assad; if Syria came under attack.
“I say specifically that if Syria came under military attack, Iran would also give military support but it... totally depends on the circumstances,” he said.
Press reports indicated that the Iranian statement is the first official acknowledgement from a senior military commander that Iran has a military presence on the ground in Syria.
Press added that Sunday’s comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari mark the clearest indication of Iran’s direct assistance to its main Arab allies, Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
It also suggests Tehran is wary about being drawn into a Middle East conflict if outside forces attack President Bashar al-Assad, who is locked in a war with rebel forces.
Western countries and Syrian opposition groups have accused Iran of providing weapons and expertise to Syrian armed forces. Iran has denied this.
Iranian officials have said Tehran has supplied medical and humanitarian relief to Damascus but have denied all allegations of military involvement.